Our footsteps echoed down the stairs as we reached the dimly lit lobby. The clock on the opposite struck 8:00. The usual bustle and chatter of after-class students was followed by their eagerness to return home. We were art students being tutored in this ramshackle of a school for our Intermediate Art Examinations. We had to stay back late in another school as a specially gifted art teacher used to commute a long distance to teach us. Our school didn’t permit late night classes so we were shifted to Our Lady of Roe High school.
The classes usually ended at 7:00 in the evening but teacher herself had turned up late today and hence the delay. I was at the back of the group, walking alone when Isha strode up to me with a request, “Malini, can I borrow your geometry box for today? Mine has been stolen.”
“Sure.” I replied as I slipped my hand into my bag and groped around. Something did not feel right…where was it? Sweat formed on my upper lip. Had I left it in the classroom? Of course I had.
“I think I forgot it in the class, Isha. I’ll go and get it now.” I replied.
“Are you crazy? Don’t go back in there! Besides the lights on any of the floors in this wrecked school aren’t working.” Isha cried.
“True, I don’t know why they make us wait here for so long…some people say this school is haunted.” A student chimed in.
“They should pull down this building…I don’t understand why they didn’t hold the classes in our own school” Another declared.
“It’s because that old hag…— I didn’t get to hear the comment of that boy since I had slunk away to climb the stairs and reach my class.
Nervously shifting the bag from shoulder to shoulder I pushed the door of my class open and stepped in. I flicked up the main light switch. The room was flooded with fluorescent light. I found my box just where I had left it. Relieved, I put it in my bag. As I advanced towards the light switch to click it off I froze in midway. My ears had caught a soft crack. Turning around I looked about the room. The source of the sound was a couple of chalk-sticks which had fallen, probably due to the wind and had broken. I replaced them and left the room. As I hurried past the classes something, once more, made me stop abruptly.
The light in one of the classes was on. I stepped in puzzled. ‘There weren’t lights in any of the classrooms when I came here…then why…?’ My thoughts wandered. Nevertheless I went over to the switch which was at the end of the aisle and flicked it off. The next moment I heard a thump. I turned around startled. There was another thump, a sort of a wet squishy thump. My throat turned dry. I flipped on the lights again but this time they began flickering. I stared frightened and swallowed hard. I gasped loudly when I saw a solitary figure moving towards me.
In the eerie half-light I could make out the figure of a woman. She wore torn and bloodied clothes. They came up to her thighs and her arms and legs were covered with scars. The clothes stuck close to her body and long loose hair covered her entire face. She moved slowly in a drunkard like fashion and her slick feet made wet thumps on the floor. I was immobilized. Panic stricken yet with presence of mind I slid between the benches of the middle row planning to make escape by dashing into the last aisle and running a roundabout way to the door. But alas, my clumsiness played the devil. As I made a dash for the door I tripped on the leg of the bench and fell. I grabbed out wildly and gripped the desk to haul myself up but ended up bringing down the whole desk on myself. My head hit the edge of the bench hard and I blacked out.
The red light before my eyes faded. I opened them slowly. The blur of faces drifted before me. I blinked myself awake. I sat up. I was on a bench. It was the same bench on which I had stumbled. The desk was on its place. I looked around the lights were back to normal. I stared at my friends for an explanation.
‘We heard you scream so we came to check. We didn’t find you in our own class so we assumed you may have fled from the middle stairs. We were just walking back when Chetali saw you stretched out on the bench in this class. The light was on. Tell us what happened.’ They expounded.
‘But the table fell on me! How was I on the bench?’ I thought. I wished to mention the encounter but hesitated for the fear of being ridiculed.
We trooped out of the school campus and I decided to laugh it off. Maybe I imagined the whole thing. I had a good imagination but being a story producing freak gave you nightmares and hallucinations. With a setting like this who wouldn’t? Curiosity made me lag behind everyone and I quietly glanced back at the building only to freeze.
There. Watching me from one of the windows with a grin was the girl ghost.